What I Learned When I Cut Ties With A Toxic Family Member

by Alicia Cook

Organically growing apart from someone and needing to cut ties with a toxic person in your life are two very different calls to action.

Someone could be putting you in harm’s way, stealing from you, leading you down a bad path, spreading lies about you to hurt your reputation or doing a slew of other vindictive acts. A person like this aims to harm you in some way, even if not physically so.

People cut ties with one another to save themselves all of the time. Relationships end and friendships dissolve. No one really blinks an eye about it, so long as the evidence points to the fact that the person in question started poisoning your well-being and mental state.

Did you make an honest effort to maintain order in the relationship? Did you explore all avenues of mending said relationship? Have you given the toxic person numerous opportunities to "do the right thing"? If so, and to no avail, people will commend you for making the difficult, yet necessary decision to cut ties from this person.

Not everything is black and white when it comes to severing a long-standing relationship with someone. This is especially true if the person you desperately need to break from is a member of your own family, your own blood.

I cut ties with a toxic family member and I am better for it. Choosing to separate from a family member — be it a parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, husband, wife, sibling or child — can be painstakingly difficult. It will hurt your mind and heart. It will exhaust you.

I did not make my decision to never speak to this family member ever again overnight. It took years of watching this person abuse our loving family’s generosity.

It took years of watching this person never visit or call any sick relatives, yet show up the day of the memorial services, only to deliver a crying jag, worthy of an Oscar nomination.

It took years of huge blowouts at the dinner table during the holidays. It took years of watching this person lie, cheat and steal. It took me years to see this person’s true colors.

I had to tell myself that this person, though we share a bloodline, would not help me up if I were drowning in a puddle. I had to tell myself that if this were any other person in the world, I would have walked away years ago and might have even sought legal action.

I had to tell myself I exhausted every effort to save this relationship. I had to tell myself I was not turning my back, but this person turned on me. And then, I had to wash my hands of this person and go on with my life, as if this person was never part of mine.

Holidays are no longer tense. There are no more “he said/she said” rumors spreading. We have celebrated weddings and birthdays with true joy in our hearts, without an egocentric person around to sabotage the day or make it about him or her.

What really makes up a family are the people who stick by you, through thick and thin, who want nothing but the best for you and who would save you if you were drowning.

Everyone needs a support system, and if someone wants nothing more than to disrupt your support system in hopes of it malfunctioning, family or not, you need to address the problem.

As you grow and experience adult life, you learn the hard truth about things -- about people. People can be inherently self-seeking; not all people are virtuous, even if you are related to them. Not all people want what’s best for you. It's your job to make your world the best it can be.